Rural-urban migration is leading to rapid increases in the populations of secondary cities in low income countries, causing massive urban expansion. Between 2000 and 2020, less-developed countries increased their urban populations by 1.39 billion (70%). Cities have been growing through a mix of natural increase and migration, and migration on average contributes more to population growth in smaller cities than in larger ones. Rapid population growth during this period has translated into an almost four-fold increase in the built-up area of cities in less-developed countries. 

Secondary cities in Sub-Saharan Africa doubled their population and increased their extents by a factor of 2.5 during this period. Much of this urban expansion was disorderly, lacking adequate infrastructure, and with serious environmental concerns. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 80% of the residential areas developed over the past 25 years are informal and unplanned

The Cities and Migration Programme aims to address this missed opportunity of proactive urban planning by providing data, incentives, and support to its partner cities.  This is challenging for secondary cities in less developed countries. The planning method should be as simple as possible, with one consolidated programme to secure all the lands for the arterial roads and environmentally sensitive areas for the next 30 years of growth.

Many leaders underestimate the amount of growth that they are likely to face, but the presentation of hard scientific data will underscore that urban expansion is essentially inevitable for most rapidly growing cities. 


Building on Experience


The Cities and Migration Programme builds on Cities Alliance's past experiences piloting urban expansion planning in Ethiopia. The Ethiopia Urban Expansion Programme aided rapidly growing secondary cities in Ethiopia to make and implement plans to manage the next 30 years of growth. It was implemented by New York University and supported by Cities Alliance from 2013 to 2016.  

Making and implementing urban expansion plans has an exceptionally high rate of return on investment and is excellent value for money. An initial investment of USD 500,000 from New York University, and a second investment of USD 200,000 from Cities Alliance, allowed 18 Ethiopian cities to build over 500km of arterial roads on their urban peripheries, making room for at least 26,000 jobs and 140,000 new residents. 

For example, in Bahir Dar, new neighbourhoods in the expansion area have more than 40,000 residents. A new industrial zone in the city has provided 430 hectares of land for local manufacturers to expand, creating new jobs in factories and on construction sites. 

Four participating cities invested a combined total of about USD 35 million over five years to build arterial roads and acquire rights of ways. These funds came from the local allocations of a World Bank urban infrastructure loan that each city received in exchange for meeting fiscal management performance targets. The total cost amounted to 50% of the total capital budget in each city over five years – a considerable investment, but within the capacity of the participating cities.